General News of Monday, 15 May 2017
The bloody weekend clash involving two royal factions in Bolgatanga, the Upper East regional capital, has triggered swift relocation of some affected residents to safety.
Devastated families took the difficult decision despite intensified patrols by the military and police squads deployed to restore calm in the troubled community, Atulbabisi.
“I still have 6 months to complete my rent in this house. But looking at the heavy beating my neighbour received on Saturday from those people who came here to attack us, there is nothing like spending another night here. The landlord can take the rest of my rent. I don’t need it.
“They entered my rooms after destroying my door, and took my decoder, blender and my gas cylinder away. Go into my rooms and see the things they have destroyed there,” Clement Aduko, an electrician, told Starr News as he struggled to drag the remains of his belongings to a blue truck waiting outside the raided compound.
Another resident, Margaret Apana, said: “This house was attacked the last time. They burnt our things. God saved me and my four children. They have come again and God has saved us again. How sure am I that God will save me the next time? I’m leaving. As you can see, we are packing our things like that.”
Students, including those scheduled to write their Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) next month, got caught up in the crossfire as the flames set on some houses during the Saturday night clash also consumed their school uniforms and learning materials.
“There are no books for me to revise,” Thomas Adagliga, a relocating student in basic form 3 (name of school withheld) lamented after the devastation. “All the notes I have tried to revise, everything is gone. I have to search for friends and by the time I search for friends for their notes, we have already [started] to write the BECE. This will affect my BECE a lot.”
How funerals are fanning the clash
In what Starr News has observed, funerals have become a most appealing platform for the two factions to renew their feud.
The two blocs belong to the same roots. And funerals of relatives are among the occasions that do bring them together. As the timeless tradition demands or permits, tireless singing and spirited dancing will always accompany assorted eating and heavy drinking at funeral grounds.
Influenced by the beer taken in heavy quantities, some members from either side take to figurative singing and, whilst flaunting their smocks in a circular dance, they taunt the other side, saying with a smile and pride: “We are the real royals.” A counteroffensive is hurled back like meteors. And there is an explosion!
That was what happened in 2016, when 5 people got shot and slashed with machetes after the two sides clashed at a funeral at Dapoore-Tindongo, just behind the Bolgatanga Stadium. A traditional war dance got tainted with boastful undertones and it ended in a sudden knife attack and gunfire that left the funeral crowd fleeing barefoot in different directions. The aftermath of an earlier clash in 2015, which saw even sub-chiefs and elders attacked, had only left a huge scar in heart of the municipality. The 2016 bloody brawl left a crater.
The latest clash of Saturday also began at a funeral gathering performed by one of the factions. The same old song said to have been rendered by some drunken ‘lead vocals’ invoked a comment that provoked a threat of attack.
And the threat was delivered later in the evening with heavy firing from AK 47 assault rifles and pump action guns among other lethal weapons on aggressive display. It started with stone throwing and graduated into machete wielding, in what reportedly lasted from around 7:00pm until the military troops on the ground were emboldened with a midnight reinforcement.
By sunrise the following day, two civilians, attacked by civilians, had been declared dead. Several people, deeply injured in the onslaught, were under intensive attention at the Upper East Regional Hospital amid police guard. And whilst devastated women mourned the number of houses ruthlessly torched with flames and traumatised children searched through the burnt rubbles, fears of reprisal attacks increased as the conflict-weary sun regained strength by the minute.
Media to boycott all police programmes after harsh handling
Media platforms are bleeding with police crackdown on attempts by journalists to enrich their reports with the security say on the hot issue.
The harsh reactions that met such harmless attempts from police chiefs are on audio records. Needless to be harsh on the press much as it is needless to mention the names of the commanders for now, it would have been just enough to tell the inquiring newsmen, in a tone that represents the police as a service and not a force, just what the public would be better off knowing or worse off not knowing.
But a commander told a journalist “I don’t do my policing in the media”, and one commander snubbed and repeatedly shouted on another reporter, “Can’t you use your common sense!”
The Upper East Regional Police Command is yet to have a Public Relations Officer known to the press in the region since ASP Thomas Yao Agbanyo, a hardworking former regional police PRO, left in 2015 on transfer as District Commander in the Volta Region.
The Army, in joint patrols with police and firemen on the ground, have been supportive in getting what has been needed to filter reports considered timely and wholesome for the public consumption on the clash. In what is a strong caution against stray bullets, the army have advised everyone to avoid curious positioning by the windows and rather always lie low indoors behind the “cement part” of their rooms in any event of open gunfire.
As security patrols are sitting tight on the lid of potential reprisal attacks in the chieftaincy dispute to maintain the peace in the regional capital, regional correspondents are notifying their newsrooms of a collective resolve to boycott all police programmes in the region until their lawful obligation to probe and to inform is duly recognised.